Do I have a man's name?

Dear Venerables and friends,
A point of contention over the past year has been the spelling of my name. Again yesterday learned Sri Lankan Bhikkhus tried to convince me to spell/pronounce my name with a long a (Pasannā), sighting Pasanna is a mans name. Is this true of the Pāli or just a Singhala thing? The SL also normally think my name is Prasanna which is apparently the corresponding meaning in Singhala, and possibly an acceptable female name!

As far as I can tell, pasannā is a fermented rice liquor and not a state of gladness from seeing the truth.



I hope that is the only one and I am sure that you are very happy about it.

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As a Sri Lankan I can confirm that Passana is a man’s name. But, as suggested by the learned monks, if it can be pronounced with a long a, then it sounds feminine, a woman’s name.

Prasanna is definitely a man’s name. Here again a long a will make it a woman’s. Why not try Pasannee?. It is a woman’s name in Sri Lanka.

With Metta

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thanks @Nimal :slight_smile:
Yes, maybe Pasannī might be the better rendering? My Pali isn’t good enough to say.

Thanks, @Pasanna, for starting this thread! I have a similar question. When I was first ordained, I was given the name Vimalañāṇi with a short i at the end. Later, people criticized it and said it should really be along ī.
Maybe Bhante @Sujato could comment? Thanks! :anjal:


My sister’s name is Kalyani.
So I like your name as it is at the moment.

Vimalañāṇi sounds like a Tamil surname to me. A long i or ee at the end will make it sound feminine. But at the end of the day, it is the language one uses which will make it sound male or female.
With Metta

Well, it’s a somewhat complex topic, as genders in Pali are not as simple as “make the last vowel long and it’s feminine”. If that was the case, what would we say of the Buddha, constantly referred to as bhagavā? This kind of usage is not at all unusual. See, for example, the following list of epithets for a “wise person” I just stumbled across, almost all with long final vowels, and all masculine singular:

Paññāṇavā soti paṇḍito paññavā buddhimā ñāṇī vibhāvī medhāvī

One complication is that names in Pali are typically quoted in the nominative form, whereas in foreign languages they are usually used in stem (= vocative) form. But this is not always the case; sujāto is nominative singular masculine. This is an interesting case, as in “standard” form we’d present my name as “Sujata”, and indeed I tried to use this for a while. But everyone thought it sounded like a girl’s name! I didn’t mind, but hey, who am I to question the will of the majority?

Sometimes, as mentioned by several commenters, a name may simply “sound” right even if it’s not correct in Pali. For example, satimā is used as a feminine name meaning “mindful one”, whereas in fact it is a masculine form. The feminine is satimantī.

Somewhat of a digression here, but back to the topic. Pasanna should indeed be declined in a feminine form, pasannā. But anyway, most of us, including myself, never worry about using diacriticals for names, so it’s really just a matter of preference.

As for vimalañāṇi, the final i here represents the in ending, which can in theory be either long or short in both masculine and feminine forms. However, as it happens I can only find occurrences in the canon in a masculine form using the long ī. So regardless of gender it seems the long ī is the idiomatic form.

One little detail in this that I believe has not been noticed before. Pali has a third gender, the neuter. This is used for things that are neither male nor female, such as the mind (citta). (Of course it’s not as simple as that, as lots of ungendered things are linguistically gendered anyway, usually to masculine by default.)

While the neuter gender hasn’t traditionally been used for names, it could be used by people who don’t want to adopt a binary gender. In this case, the neuter form is usually declined—in both nominative and (the extremely rare) vocative—with a closing . So pasannaṁ, sujātaṁ, vimalañāniṁ.


Thank you Bhante!

Ayya @Vimala, look at this! :grin::grin:


Yes this is very cool, but the hassle of having to explain it. Aiyo!

Thank you Bhante!


My name Sabbamitta appears in the canon only in a masculine form as one of the monks whose poems are in the Theragāthā. I always thought (with the little Pali knowledge I only have) that the final a has to become long—Sabbamittā—in order to make it feminine. But now I see that could also be wrong… Bhante @sujato, can you help here too? Thank you!


Strangely, aside from pali and sinhala, usually names ending with “a” are feminine sounding to the ears of most people. Like “Sujata” would be, which is actually the correct name form of venerable @sujato :O)
So I guess you needn’t worry.


Your name is the same form as Pasanna, so yes, normally the feminine form would be sabbamittā.

Curiously, though, mettā is itself feminine. So normally it would appear in nominative as long-ā. But in Pali, compounds usually take a masculine form, regardless of the normal ending. So it goes from feminine to masculine, and then back again. ¯_(ツ)_/¯


Thank you, Bhante!

And so has German.

But while on one hand there are objects that have a grammatical gender other than neutral in both languages (many in German, like tree, street, river… ), in German we also have the neuter gender for people sometimes. Especially for biological females.

For example a girl, other than a boy, is neuter in German. And not very long ago a female did not only have to grow adult in order to become feminine, but also had to get married (unless referred to in relation to a profession or any other special function)! Unmarried women used to be not a Frau (woman), but a Fräulein (a diminutive form of Frau; diminutives are always neuter in German). So in order to become a fully grown up woman you had to be related to a man in German language! (Luckily the Fräuleins have run out of custom nowadays.)

But in the particular region of Germany where I grew up, until today females, if referred to with their proper name, will remain neuter for their whole life. For my family, as long as I live, I’ll never be anything else but Es Maria (neuter article + proper name)… And in the unlikely case that any of them would ever use my Pali name I’d probably turn out to be Es Sabbamitta:rofl:


Huh, interesting. It’s amazing how social expectations are embedded in language: you’re not really a woman until you marry.

In Pali, one quirk is that one of the normal words for “woman” or “womankind” (mātugāma) is masculine in form. This is following the rule I mentioned above, where a compound takes a masculine ending.

Also one of the words for “wife” (dāra) is masculine; I have no idea why. Checking the dictionaries for dāra, it’s rather odd that one dictionary gives it as masculine, and one as feminine. The declined forms clearly show that it’s masculine (or perhaps neuter, as in most cases this is identical).


I had no idea. Very cool, indeed.
(A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I knew genders in Pali were complicated, but had no idea they are this complicated. Thank you, Bhante!)

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My dog’s name is the compound Zenqi because when he was a puppy he was either sound asleep or endless energy. I often use Zenqi as a login name because it’s seldom taken. I used it on Sutta Central and it just occurred to me that people might think I practice Zen, which I don’t. Perhaps I should change it?


If you take the German word for girl, Mädchen, this too is a diminutive (and hence neuter). It is actually a diminutive of Magd which means female servant. So you get an idea about what a female is expected to be, right from birth on!

The word for boy, by contrast, Junge, simply and straightforwardly means young one.


Reminded me of Fräulein Maria, from The sound of music. :slight_smile:

I was thinking what % of our thoughts could be called male, female or neutral. I think 95% of our thoughts cannot be denoted as being specific to a particular gender. Mentally this might mean gender is of little importance. However when we invest our attention in it, it takes on a huge level of significance. I guess when we have mettā it doesn’t really matter what sex the recipient is, or what gender we are, in an ideal sit. Perceived gender of our name, is an extension of one aspect of our self view. The Buddha said ‘let go of the sign and the detail’, admittedly in a different situation but I wonder if this is applicable to this as well. Matheesha is my full (first) name and my fifth grade teacher used to call me Matheeshā much to my annoyance at the time :laughing:. I think it took me about 45 years to be, or rather, not be swayed by popular cultural caricatures of what a man should be. Now, I’m not exactly trying to be me, but rather not ‘be’ anything, any person, if that makes sense, including a ‘man’ as defined by the masses.

With metta


Keep the name :dog:
It’s sweet that you “include” your pup in online life.